Tuesday, 19 March 2019

‘Living’ wall artist asking for permission a year late

‘Living’ wall artist asking for permission a year late

AN artist who installed a 26ft “living” wall of plants on the side of his home in Henley last year is now seeking planning permission for the work.

Clive Hemsley, who lives at Longlands House in Hart Street, covered the east wall of the three-storey Georgian property with shrubs and flowers that can absorb and digest air pollutants from exhaust fumes.

He installed a black wood and plastic frame which is covered with an enlarged version of his portrait of a black Labrador called Jenson belonging to a Shiplake couple.

The plants, which water themselves from a rainwater butt on the roof, sit in troughs and are lined up in different colours that follow the outline of the artwork.

The system was installed by Treebox, of Wimbledon, and officially unveiled in November.

Mr Hemsley did not tell South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, at the time but its enforcement officers began an investigation following a report from a member of the public.

The officers told him to apply for retrospective planning permission as the building is Grade II listed. Mr Hemsley says the wall improves the look of the area and argues that it is not a permanent change to the building as it can be dismantled within hours.

He says the plants, which include euchera, heucherella, liriope, vinca and sedum, help offset Henley’s long-standing air pollution problems as they absorb nitrogen dioxide and the fine soot particles given off by petrol and diesel vehicles.

Mr Hemsley, who has lived at the house with his wife Inez for 20 years, said the wall included a plastic membrane to protect the main wall of the house. The frame is held in place with two-inch screws.

He said: “This is a very important way in which, after providing centuries of enjoyment as an imposing residence and business premises, Longlands could do something good for Henley.

“Since it was erected, the wall has brought forward nothing but praise and admiring comments by townspeople and visitors alike. Many people stop to take photos. I truly believe that this garden is a wonderful addition to this part of the town, is very suitable for the site and does nothing to detract from the setting, only adding to its appeal.

“As it is on the side of the house overlooking the small paved area, it is easily seen by admirers and can be accessed for viewing from this public area without hindrance to others.

“It will not keep crowds of people interfering with the easy passage of traffic or pedestrians but is a hanging garden display which attracts an admiring glance as people pass by. No works have been carried out to the actual fabric of the building, rather a garden has been constructed off-site and attached to it.”

Mr Hemsley told the Henley Standard: “If this doesn’t get permission I will just remove it. It would be a shame because Henley in Bloom supported the idea but I don’t see how the district council can object when you look at the problems we’ve got with air pollution.”

Enviromental campaigner Val Stoner, of Wyndale Close, Henley, said: “I would be very keen to see this given permission. It was a pretty crazy thing for Clive to do but he wanted to beautify the town and help with its air pollution problems, which this will help with and it should be kept.”

Town councillors supported Mr Hemsley’s application at a planning committee meeting on Tuesday.

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak said: “Clive has been a naughty boy doing this before getting listed building consent but he has now gone through the required paperwork. I like the living wall and it helps with air quality.”

Councillor David Nimmo Smith said the application stated the wall had been supported by the town council when it had not.

Earlier this year, Mr Hemsley lit up Henley Bridge by attaching two strings of 8,000 white LED lights to it without planning permission or the consent of Oxfordshire County Council, which owns the Grade I listed crossing.

He was ordered to remove them but more than 2,400 people signed a petition to keep them so he did and has heard nothing from the council since.

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